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Playoff-Bound Cowboys Focused on 'Finishing the Fight' with Super Bowl Run

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 31 Dec 2014

IRVING, Texas The Cowboys opened training camp in July with the motto of fight emblazoned on their t-shirts.Coach Jason Garrett wanted a team of players who were willing to fight to play, fight to practice, fight through adversity and fight to win.It was attitude Garrett was trying to instill in a Cowboys team that had long been called soft, that had faltered in the face of adversity and seemingly played its worst when it mattered most.They were defined by their tendency to blow leads late in games and blow games late in seasons, typified most by their poor December records.The Cowboys changed the narrative in 2014 with a 12-4 mark and their first NFC East title and playoff appearance since 2009.They will face the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round at the AT&T Stadium with a new motto: Finish the Fight.What you try to emphasize, as a coaching staff to your football team, is the importance of finishing everything, coach Jason Garrett said. Youre always trying to instill that. You certainly try to put players in situations where they have to finish plays, finish a certain situation in practice. So its a word that we probably use as much as any, and certainly finishing games and finishing the season follow those kinds of things. The best teams Ive been around were great finishers: the runners finished, the linemen finished, the great tacklers. Thats what this game is all about. Youve got to finish the job."It can be said that no team finished better than the Cowboys in 2014. Certainly the Seattle Seahawksare on a bigger roll, riding a six-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.But no team is hotter than the streaking Cowboys, who have won four straight games against the Chicago Bears (41-28), the Philadelphia Eagles (38-27), the Indianapolis Colts (42-7) and the Washington Redskins (44-17) by a combined score of 165-79 and the last two by combined score of 86-24.It feels really great, tight end Jason Witten said. I think for a core group of us that took it under the chin the last three years we knew we had to go do it. We put our head down and had a chip on our shoulder. We had to play better. We had to practice harder. We had to be smarter, tougher, and more physical. Its good to see it pay off but its just getting started.Guard Ron Leary: Its been a pretty good December, but were going to keep it rolling into the playoffs. Its going to get better.Its been good because the Cowboys have learned from the mistakes of the past and rebuilt themselves into a team of fighters and a team of finishers.Just a year ago, the Cowboys were lampooned for blowing fourth-quarter leads in devastatingly-familiar losses to Green Bay and Detroit.They were derided for another woeful month of December, which contributed to a third consecutive 8-8 season.In 2014, the Cowboys were 5-1 in games that were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter and they lost no games in which they held a fourth-quarter lead.Again, they were undefeated in December with a 4-0 record for the first time since 1993.Garrett said the Cowboys have been able to protect leads and finish in 2014 because they are a better team and built the right way.I think youre always trying to instill that, and we certainly tried to instill it back then in those games, Garrett said. Just because you try to emphasize something doesnt necessarily mean its always going to come to fruition. When you get the team built the way you want it to, you have a much better opportunity to finish situationsyou can be a more physical football team at the end of games, you can run it better. You can kind of take a lot of those challenging situations away by just being physically dominant up front. Thats one of the reasons weve tried to build our team the way we have.Part of being able to finish was transitioning from a pass-happy offense of past years to a run-oriented unit, led by NFL-leading rusher DeMarco Murrayand the leagues most dominant offensive line. Finishing well has been embodied by an opportunistic defense that has gotten better as the season has gone along and is playing its best football heading into the playoffs. The Cowboys have forced 13 turnovers the past four games.The Cowboys are built so well that Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said about them on Monday: Im not certain that weve seen a more complete team. Im not certain.What is certain is that the Cowboys are a bunch of fighters.Of course, the key now is finishing the fight with a run to the Super Bowl.Again, thats a mentality, thats a mindset, Garrett said. Youve got to after it. And youve got to go finish the job the right way.I think championship teams, by definition, finish well.Clarence Hill covers the Cowboys for theFort Worth Star-Telegram.All quotations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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